Review Summary: One of Borknagar's most underrated albums.
Whenever the name Borknagar comes up most people probably think of either their newer, more progressive albums such as Empiricism. Maybe some people think of their more folk black metal oriented sound on their self-titled album and The Olden Domain
. I highly doubt many people associate their third release, The Archaic Course
with some of their better albums. Well you should think again because this album is just as worthy as all of those other releases. So maybe this album doesn't have the supergroup line-up that they had on their first album or the strong folk metal influences that it did on early albums, but what it does have is enough catchiness, melody, and atmosphere to give you one hell of a melodic black metal album.
First off, what most people are going to notice about this album is the fact that Garm is no longer apart of Borknagar at this point in the band's career. Garm has been replaced by a man who most people in the black metal scene know as Dimmu Borgir's former bassist and that man is ICS Vortex, or simply just Vortex. Vortex is similar to Garm in many ways. Both men have vocal styles that consist of using both black metal shrieks and very operatic, clean singing. In fact if this album was just made up of black metal vocals then you probably wouldn't even be able to tell the diffence. Their harsh vocals sound very much the same. The difference is in the clean vocals. Now Garm is one of my favorite black metal vocalists, but he doesn't have the range that Vortex has. This man can hit some extremely high notes while singing and it's definitely a treat. There is a lot more clean singing on this album than there is shrieks and that's really not a bad thing at all. So if you're not a fan of the black metal vocals then maybe this is the album for you.
Instrumentally Borknagar doesn't really do anything that you haven't heard from a lot of the other melodic black metal bands out there. While they might now be very unique, they still get the job done. The album is dominated by melodic riffs and some tremolo picking here and there. If your a fan of melody in your black metal then there's no reason why you shouldn't be interested in this album. Like most black metal albums the bass is pretty much non-existent. The keyboards are a pretty big part of this album, like they are with a lot of melodic black metal albums. You won't find a huge symphony in this album like you will in some albums by some bands like Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth. The keyboards simply do their job of giving off a great atmosphere and don't try to overdo anything.
Basically, if you're a fan of melodic black metal you should really enjoy this album. If you've only heard the first few albums then don't come into this expecting a folk/black metal albums because that's not what you're getting yourself into at all. There are really no traces of that sound to be found in this album. Now on the other hand if you want a melodic black metal album with a lot of clean, operatic vocals with some normal black metal shrieks mixed in along the way, then this is definitely one of the albums you want to hear. The Archaic Course
is by far Borknagar's most underrated release and it deserves to be heard.